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  • Writer's pictureKara Marselle

Chicago chef sharing Native American culture through food

Jasmine Minor Wednesday, November 22, 2023

CHICAGO (WLS) -- November is Native American Heritage Month, and one chef is teaching Chicago students how to cook native meals.

It's her way of spreading native culture for the holiday.

"This is traditionally harvested, like people actually go out on canoes and they process it," said Jessica Walksfirst, executive chef and owner of Ketapanen Kitchen.

Walksfirst said her Ketapanen Kitchen is the only native kitchen in Chicago, where all ingredients are completely natural.

"You can taste where it came from. You can taste Wisconsin. You can taste Minnesota," Walksfirst said.

She's teaching native cooking to University of Illinois Chicago students in an effort to bring more of her culture home to the city.

UIC student Rahaf Mohamed said she's fitting a cooking lesson in between her classes. She said she's a bit of newbie in the kitchen.

"Being able to learn things and make some mistakes is really fun, too," Mohamed said.

But the exposure to something different was worth it.

"Most of the time I go to the grocery store, and I think it's great food. And it says GMO, organic, but in reality it's a bunch of things that are made in man-made places," Mohamed said.

The students made an all-natural harvest stew, a popular dish from the Menominee Indian tribe of Wisconsin, and a way of adding to the surge of recognition of Native American culture.

"Finally a piece of myself is out there in a place where I can see it," Walksfirst said.

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